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Quebec Metro owner plays Santa

Gifts concert tickets to employees and unsuspecting shoppers

Third-generation Quebec grocer Mathieu Viens likes to go all out when it comes to showing his gratitude to employees and customers at his Metro store in Carleton sur Mer, a small town on the north shore of the Baie des Chaleurs. But his latest show of Christmas-inspired appreciation has people talking far beyond the Gaspe Peninsula. Last week, Viens bought and gave away all 168 tickets for a special show in the town tonight (Wed.) by local hero and Quebec recording artist Kevin Parent. Parent is currently crisscrossing the province on his Face à l'Ouest tour. Viens gave 40 of the tickets for tonight's show to nearly half of his store's 85 employees. He gave away the rest in pairs to unsuspecting shoppers of all ages who came into his store beginning at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday. "It lasted less than an hour," Viens said about the giveaway on a red carpet he had installed in the store's entrance for the occasion. "Everyone was pleasantly surprised." The gesture was reported on locally, then across the province and on social media. A story in the Journal de Québec has notably been shared more than 3,500 times on Facebook. "It's become a lot bigger than we could have ever imagined," Viens told Canadian Grocer this week. "That's nice because we have a great store and a community that we're all very proud of." It's not the first time that Viens has demonstrated his generosity of late. He notably put on the dog for Halloween by building a haunted house and dungeon animated by four actors in the produce section of his 15,000-square-foot, Metro-affiliated store. In July, he also bought and gave away all the tickets to a show at a local summer theatre. "It's all about being a good corporate citizen and giving back to the community," said Viens, 35, and a father of three young boys. "We're an important employer here (and) I like to do things that differentiate us out from the big chain stores." Viens' generosity doesn't surprise the mayor of Carleton sur mer. "The Viens family has always been very involved in our community," said Denis Henri, who has mailed Viens a thank-you letter on behalf of the town. A former Telus executive, Henri said the ticket giveaway goes above and beyond the contributions that grocers everywhere make on almost daily basis to groups and causes in their communities. "The return on investment isn't always apparent," said Henri.  "But what (Viens) has done has certainly warmed people's hearts."

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